Police, Talaingod officials whisk 13 Lumad bakwit students to Davao

Representatives of the SOS Network Cebu and the Children’s Legal Bureau talk to a Cebu Pacific Airlines employee at the Cebu airport (Photo from CLB Facebook post)

MANILA – Thirteen Lumad students had been flown to Davao from Cebu City this evening, almost a week after police and social workers took them from the bakwit school at the University of San Carlos-Talamban campus in Cebu.

The Save Our Schools Network (SOS) Cebu protested the transfer and called it “illegal transport of minors,” because seven of the 13 students were transported without authorization from their parents or order from court.

Up to the last minute before the students boarded their flight, SOS-Cebu and the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) sought to stop the transport upon request of parents of the seven students who were headed to Cebu to claim their children.

Of the seven, two were age 18 and should have been allowed to call on their own lawyer or decide whose custody they want, said SOS Cebu.

The hasty flight arrangement to send the bakwit students back to their home in Talaingod, Davao del Norte is the latest government move which started with a raid on the bakwit school in Cebu on Feb. 15. Police claimed it was a “rescue operation” because the students were undergoing “warfare training,” consistent with its redtagging line that progressive groups recruit for the New People’s Army (NPA).

Such claims by police was belied by initial findings of the local DSWD who interviewed the students and found nothing about such training.

“To label the children’s schools as training grounds for rebellion is the terror law in action,” SOS Cebu said in a Facebook post.

SOS Cebu said the agencies involved must be held accountable for going “against due process,” namely the Philippine National Police, along with the municipal government of Talaingod and its Local Social Welfare and Development Office (LSWDO).

Six other students remain in custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Cebu, while seven others are under detention on charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention. These include three adult students, two volunteer teachers and two Lumad datus (chieftains).

CLB said they will consult with the students’ parents on possible legal action to take. “The organization will also investigate this matter after authorities failed to follow established protocol,” the group said.


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